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NHL playoffs preview

NHL playoffs preview

The country’s best sportsbooks have released a range of intriguing futures betting markets on the Stanley Cup playoffs after the bracket was confirmed. We have highlighted some of the most interesting series betting options available on Round 1, and provided a futures betting update.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

This promises to be one of the tightest series in the first round. DraftKings is offering -120 on the Maple Leafs to advance and +100 on the Lightning to clinch a famous victory. The Maple Leafs secured home advantage after going 7-2-1 in their final 10 games of the regular season and finishing second in the Atlantic Division. They were 5 points clear of the Lightning, who have also won seven of their last 10.

Tampa Bay is aiming to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row, while the Maple Leafs are seeking their first playoff series victory since 2004. The action gets underway at the Scotiabank Arena on Monday, with games to follow every three days thereafter. These teams met four times in the regular season, with two wins apiece. Their last clash resulted in an emphatic 8-1 victory for the Lightning on April 22, but the Leafs won the previous game 6-2.

The Leafs have an edge on special teams and in 5v5 goals per game. The Lightning, led by Andrei Vasilevskiy, has the edge on save percentage and 5v5 goals against per game. They undoubtedly have an advantage in terms of postseason experience, but the Leafs have a game changer in Auston Matthews and home ice advantage. It could go down to the wire, so a bet on it to go to seven games at +200 with DraftKings looks appealing, as does the +250 on Matthews to finish with the most goals in the series.

Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals

The Panthers are priced at just -290 to ease past the Capitals in this first round showdown. The Caps ended the regular season on a run of four straight defeats, which does not bode well for a clash with the team with the best record in the league.

However, Capitals forward Lars Eller is confident that his team will improve in the playoffs. “I think the last three games we just haven’t really been emotionally invested in the game, like we’re there but we’re not really there,” he said. “Now we get a reset and we have games that really matter. I know what we’re capable of doing, so that gives me confidence.”

The sportsbooks are unconvinced. However, Washington was 1-1-1 against the Panthers this season. It rallied from 4-1 down in the third period to win 5-4 when the teams last met, on November 30. Alex Ovechkin is also on the brink of a return. Yet the Panthers should ultimately have too much quality for Washington, and the Panthers -1.5 in the series spread betting at DraftKings looks tempting.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins

These teams will square off in the postseason for the third time in four years. The Bruins dispatched the Canes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and the first round in 2020. Boston had home ice advantage both times, but Carolina has the honor this time around after winning the Metropolitan Division.

The Hurricanes ended the season on a run of six straight wins, so they will carry a great deal of momentum into this series. The Bruins did enough to clinch a wildcard spot, but the Canes have outgunned them in most key metrics throughout the season. Carolina has the best defensive record in the league, which should stand it in good stead. Yet they will need to work hard to shut down a second line featuring Taylor Hall, Erik Haula and David Pastrnak. That triumvirate has been superb in the past week.

The odds are very close on this series. DraftKings has -115 on Carolina and -105 on Boston. Only the series between the Rangers and the Penguins has such a tight line. Once again, this could go either way, so an “over” bet on total series games would be interesting.

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers have home ice advantage in the first round after finishing second in the Metropolitan Division. They ended the season with a 3-2 win against the Capitals. The Penguins clinched third place after a 5-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The head-to-heads make encouraging reading for Rangers fans. Their team went 3-1-0 against the Penguins this season. Those three wins came in a two-week period from March 25 to April 7, by an aggregate scoreline of 11-3.

The Penguins are the -115 favorites, which makes sense when you consider the offensive talent and experience within their roster. Yet a bet on the Rangers at -105 looks great, as they could gain a psychological advantage from those three victories.

Edmonton Oilers vs. L.A. Kings

The Oilers should make short work of the Kings in this series. They are priced at -250 to advance, whereas the Kings are +200 outsiders. Edmonton won its last three regular season games and finished with a 7-2-1 record in its last 10, leaving it five wins ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division.

That gives the Oilers home advantage. They have also won their three games against the Kings in 2022 by a combined score of 12-7. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are priced at +250 and +275 respectively to finish the series with the most goals, and splitting your stake on both men looks like a great option.

Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars

The Flames will head into the playoffs full of confidence after enjoying one of their best ever regular seasons. They won 50 games, the top line features a trio of 40-goal scorers, the defense has been solid and Jacob Markstrom is a Vezina contender.

They are priced at just -260 to win this series against the Stars, who ended up fourth in the Central Division. There appears to be a gulf in quality between the teams. The Flames had a goal differential of 85 as they finished top of the Pacific Division, while the Stars finished with a -8 differential after scoring just 238 and allowing 246.

The Flames lost to Dallas in six games during the 2020 bubble, but both teams have changed significantly since then. Calgary should be able to enact revenge, and odds of -125 on the Flames -1.5 games in this series looks interesting.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators

The Avs are just -475 to win this series, while the Predators are +380 underdogs. No other team has such long odds on making the second round. Colorado finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, 22 points ahead of the Predators, who were fifth in the Central Division.

The head-to-heads make grim reading for Colorado fans, as the Predators won their last three games against the Avs. That includes a 5-4 win last week. However, Colorado had injury problems for a couple of those defeats, and they may have lacked motivation in last weekend’s encounter. They should be a lot stronger and more focused in the playoffs.

A 4-1 series win for the Avalanche is priced at +240 with DraftKings. Colorado is unlikely to sweep the series, but it may drop just a single game. You could hedge with a smaller stake on the Avalanche to win 4-2 at +350, as it is hard to see such a dominant team dropping more than two games in the series.

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

The Wild earned home ice with an important win against the Avalanche on Friday. However, it came at a cost, as Marcus Foligno was injured in what head coach Dean Evason described as a “terrible, terrible hit” from Colorado’s Kurtis MacDermid.

Minnesota finished narrowly ahead of the Blues to secure second place in the Central Division, but St. Louis is on a five-game winning streak against the Wild. The Blues are +130 underdogs for the series, but this is likely to be another close one. The Blues +1.5 games is priced at -160. That is a lot of juice, but it may just be worth the squeeze, as the Blues are likely to lose by a narrow margin if they do lose at all.

Futures Betting Update

The Avs are the +350 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, followed by the Panthers at +550. DraftKings has a market leading +800 on the Flames, while the Leafs are +1000 with FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars. The Lightning are best priced at +1100 and the Canes are +1200 with DraftKings.

You can find +275 on the Panthers to win the Eastern Conference, with +450 on the Leafs, +550 on the Lightning and +600 on Carolina. The Avs are just +130 to clinch the west, while the Flames (+300) are deemed as the most likely team to stop them. The Oilers are out at +800 along with the Wild if you want to bet on an outsider.

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